“And now … introducing ‘Night Hawk’ … eager for the sport”
reads the title card in the 1930 silent short, “On the Waves at Waikiki.” Philip K. Auna and his scruffy terrier were a legendary surfing duo in the late 1920s and a favorite subject for photographers and filmmakers. Night Hawk would hang ten (of twenty) at the nose of Auna’s solid wood, finless plank in his classic canine stance: head down, rump raised, tail wagging. Seven decades later another terrier, Lola, a Jack Russell (pictured here) takes her owner, Mark Librie, surfing. The pair have been paddling out for the past five years, mostly in the breaks off Lanikai (one her favorites is called, no joke, Dogbowls). While Lola’s a die-hard surf fanatic, Mark won’t take her out when it gets heavy. “We go only when it’s little,” he says, “because I’ll tell you what: No matter how small it is, it’s always overhead for Lola.”
It should come as no surprise, really. Humans love dogs. Dogs love the water. Ergo, dogs surf. And they’ve been doing it for decades, at least since the 1920s when beachboy Philip K. Auna and his dog Night Hawk achieved their fifteen minutes of fame riding the waves of Waikiki. The stand up paddleboard revolution means that these days there are a lot more canines on the water, as well as a lot more of just about anything else that can stand on a board: There’s a surfing cat in Peru, a surfing rabbit on Maui, a surfing parrot on the North Shore, a surfing sheep in the United Kingdom (one that surfs quite well, thank you very much), surfing rats in Australia and Hawai‘i. But these are anomalies all: Dogs, like Mana the Australian Blue Heeler (pictured at right) who rules the reef at Lanikai, will always be a waterman’s best friend.
Kevin Seid of Hale‘iwa takes his Australian Heeler, Weve (pronouned “weave”), surfing every week. But Weve’s ease in bigger surf—he’s a North Shore dog, after all—didn’t come naturally. He’d been abandoned as a puppy at a Wai‘anae horse corral and later brought to the SPCA. Seid adopted the traumatized pup, who was afraid of water and, for some unknown reason, beer cans. But once Weve saw other dogs chasing tennis balls in the surf, his competitive spirit sent him charging into the shorebreak. From there it was inevitable that Seid, a stand up paddleboard maker, would get Weve surfing. “At first he was a little unstable, but he adapted,” says Seid. “I never had to force him; it was totally natural.” Now when Weve sees a board on the sand, he jumps on it and waits for someone to paddle him out. And if Seid wants to surf alone, he has to put Weve on a leash, or Weve will swim out to the lineup and climb on. No word yet on whether he’s learned to love beer.
Like his predecessor, Bugsy assumes the Night Hawk stance at the tip of owner David Yew’s board. Yew and Bugsy are practically celebrities in the famed Waikiki break; the blue-begoggled pug’s been featured in national media, including on the cover of last August’s Reader’s Digest. Yew’s even taken Bugsy skydiving. The secret to Bugsy’s unflappability, says Yew, is twofold: First, unconditional trust between pet and owner. Second, blue goggles. “The glasses are ‘time out’ for him,” says Yew. “I’ll have him wear the glasses while we’re waiting for a wave, and he’ll stay perfectly still. Then when a wave comes, I’ll remove the glasses so he can hang out and move around.”
Between sets, Bugsy jumps from the nose of one longboard to another, fishing for strokes from the other surfers. When he’s ready to call it a day, he’ll jump off Yew’s board and swim to shore to hang with the beach boys until Yew paddles in.